Not Always on Sunday
Northplace Church, an Assemblies of God congregation in the Dallas metro area, began offering Saturday night worship nearly three years ago.
Shiloh Ranch, an AG cowboy church in Powell Butte, Oregon, launched with sole Monday night services in 2012, which continue to this day.
Since the first century church, Sunday has been the preferred day for corporate worship. But church services on days other than Sunday seem to be more common than in previous generations.
Are they? And from a spiritual standpoint, does it matter what day of the week a congregation holds its main corporate gathering?
Kevin D. Dougherty, executive officer of the Religious Research Association in Waco, Texas, says that while data reveals no increase in numbers of worship services over the past 15 years, he, too, has witnessed an anecdotal shift in worship days.
Dougherty points to the loss of guaranteed worship times on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. Especially for children in the United States, churches compete with sporting events and dance classes. And many people work during those periods. Society doesn’t view Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings as sacred time.
“You see churches battling encroachment in the reduction of the time slot,” Dougherty says. “Because of that, churches are working to accommodate the limited time families have available to give them. Congregations are having to find alternative times to reach their members where they’re not consumed by other activities. That’s getting harder to do in American society.”
Non-Sunday services are another way for congregations to get people in the door who have busy lives, while still reinforcing the importance of faith and gathering together, Dougherty says.
That’s one reason Northplace Church in Sachse, Texas, began its Saturday night service.
“We wanted to create a space for those in the community who couldn’t come on Sundays,” says John S. Cruz, its executive pastor. He notes the church’s outreach to the demographic of young families, who are often busy and would prefer to have a full Sunday off. “It gives young families an opportunity for them to worship in a corporate environment.”
Another reason for the Saturday evening service involved crowded facilities.
“Everybody seemed to want to come worship at 11 a.m.,” Cruz says. “Instead of building another building or expanding our sanctuary, we added another service.”
The preaching and worship, he says, is identical at the 6 p.m. Saturday service as it is at the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday services. “We intentionally created the same exact experience. Our goal wasn’t to create a separate church. It’s just another time and day.”
But, Cruz adds, the overall tone indeed is different.
“Everything we do from the platform Saturday night is more casual,” he says. “In the summer, we see more people in shorts and flip-flops. We tell them you can come any way you want.”
The Northplace Saturday service draws an average of 450, Cruz says. In addition, 700 attend the 9 a.m. Sunday service and 900 worship at 11 a.m.
Shiloh Ranch’s 7 p.m. Monday service accommodates Oregonians in the heart of the state who love traveling and being outdoors. Several in the congregation take part in weekend rodeos outside the Powell Butte area. Monday services, held May through September, allow worshippers to take part in both instead of them missing out on the community aspect, according to Lacey Weaver, the church’s executive pastor.
Like the Saturday service of Northplace, the Monday worship at Shiloh Ranch is less formal, but the sermon and the music otherwise are identical to Sunday morning. Weaver says the church refers to the Monday worship as the “Elisha” service. The next generation of the church’s leadership are in charge, learning while doing.
Shiloh Ranch offers a meal at every service; on Monday nights, a taco or a barbecue truck sits on the grounds. Congregants often invite the unchurched to the Monday service.
“It’s a very easy introduction to nonbelievers,” Weaver says. “If it gets people there in the first place, a lot of them do make the connection to Sundays.”